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New Whitehorse Sikh temple opens just in time for Diwali

Diwali is always a special time of year — marked by candles, lights, prayer, music and delicious treats. But it was a particularly special celebration this year in Whitehorse, because it was the first festival held at the city’s new Sikh place of worship.

It was the first festival held at the new place of worship

A fire was held later in the night during Diwali on Nov. 4, after people gathered together for songs and prayer in the new temple. (Submitted by Ushpreet Singh)

Diwali is always a special time of year — marked by candles, lights, prayer, music and delicious treats.

But it was a particularly special celebration this year in Whitehorse, because it was the first festival held at the city's new Sikh place of worship.

"It's really exciting because … we can gather and we can connect to each other in [many] ways," said Ushpreet Singh, the preacher at the new gurdwara.

Diwali is celebrated by several major religions around the world including Sikhs, Hindus, Jains, and some Buddhists. For each faith, it marks different histories. 

The lights represent the triumph of light over dark and the power of good over evil.

Ushpreet Singh is the preacher at the new Sikh temple, or gurdwara. Diwali was the first festival hosted in the new space. (Danielle d'Entremont/CBC)

Last year, celebrations were limited in the territory due to pandemic restrictions.

But now with a bigger space and eased restrictions, people were able to share the festival together again.

"We haven't had any celebration here after the inauguration. And this is … a big one. So we are really excited for that," he said.

Before the new space opened in September, the Sikh community was renting a small space downtown. This was a big improvement from when people were using their homes and other spaces for worship, but was still limited in space.

A diya, candle, being lit outside of the Sikh temple for Diwali. The lights represent the triumph of light over dark and the power of good over evil. (Danielle d'Entremont/CBC)

Jessy Sandhu-Bhupal has been getting more involved in the gurdwara since it relocated. 

Sandhu-Bhupal said it is not only a place of worship, but it's a place where people can gather for communal meals and events.

She said her favourite part of this new space is that it's open to everyone.

"Anybody, regardless of their religion or their colour or gender, they're more than welcome to come here … we have to come together," Sandhu-Bhupal said.

Navdeep Kaur was one of the several people busy in the kitchen preparing for a Diwali feast on Thursday night. (Danielle d'Entremont/CBC)

There is a free kitchen service offered in the space, and it has extra rooms downstairs in case anyone needs to stop for a rest.

"We're trying to … really be a part of the Whitehorse community," Sandhu-Bhupal said. "This town has given us so much and we're trying to do the best that we can to give back."

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